"There must be dales in Paradise
Which you and I will find.."

Friday 29 March 2024


Limekiln House and the Drove Road from Kepwick

5.5 miles                          Fine but cool

With some improvement to my foot injury I decided the time was right to test it properly with a short Tom Scott Burns walk.

We approached Kepwick from the A19 via Leake Lane and parked in a small free car park next door to the old school, now converted to a house.  

Today's route from The Walker's Guide to the Hambleton Hills

The Old School with carved bear in the doorway

The Old Joiner's Shop
Houses in Kepwick

A row of miners' cottages

Tom Scott Burns suggests that Kepwick is derived from the Scandinavian Kaeppi and Vik, producing Kaeppivik which means 'a nook in the hills'.  It's mentioned in the Domesday Book as Capuic.  

In Victorian times it was noted for its lime and sandstone quarries and a railway ran from Kepwick to kilns on the Yarm to Thirsk turnpike road until 1893.  

We turned left out of the car park and walked east through the village, admiring some of the pretty cottages scattered along the main street, before coming to the main gates of Kepwick Hall.

Rams enjoying the Spring sunshine

The gatehouse at Kepwick Hall

The best view we can get of Kepwick Hall

We walked up to the gatehouse of Kepwick Hall to see what we could of the hall and then returned to the Kepwick to Silton road and followed it to its junction with Bridge Beck Lane.

Here we turned right into a footpath and farm track to Nab Farm, walking past a little hill called The Nab, with French Hill wood on our left.

We pass the bed of the old mineral railway

The beck from Bridge Beck Lane

We leave the road at the entrance to Nab Farm

The Nab on our left and French Wood to the right

Passing The Nab we approached isolated Nab Farm. Some cattle could be seen in a field down to our right but when we reached the farm we saw most were still inside.  The farmer was checking new born calves and we asked her when they were going outside.  "They should be out now but the ground is still so wet", she said.  She then went on to tell us what a bad year they have had, with 7 cows having a positive reaction for TB testing.  All farms within 3 miles have to be locked down when there is a positive case so they had to have the cattle quickly destroyed.  Infuriatingly, when the blood tests were finally returned the cows did not have TB and had given a false positive.  She was still very angry about it but said, "you can't fight t'Government!"

Nab Farm

New arrivals

The farmer tells us why the cattle are still indoors

It was interesting to  chat to the farmer and as we left her she warned us to keep high to the left as the ground was so boggy.

Leaving Nab Farm behind, we paused to look across the valley, over Bridge Beck towards Whitestone Scar and Kepwick Moor on the horizon.  We could see our path leading all the way to the high moor.

Whitestone Scar ahead, Kepwick Moor to the right

Bridge Beck

"How's yer foot?"

After the beck we came to the ruins of an old lime kiln and our path climbed quickly away from it, following a nice green path alongside a dry stone wall.  We followed this green path all the way up to Kepwick Moor where it joins the old drovers' road.

The moor gate

Lime kiln

Whitestone Scar

Looking back down our path to Nab Farm

Kepwick Quarries and workings

The green path climbs for a mile to reach the Hambleton Drove Road

Reaching the top we came to the remains of Limekiln House but today all that can be seen of the building are a few stony outcrops and a marker stone.  Nearby is a small cross dedicated to Bert 2005 RIP who we presume was a dog.

A recently added memorial

We walked along the old Drovers' road for nearly two miles, stopping just before we reached the remains of Steeple Cross to shelter against the wall for our coffee and scones.

A lapwing watches us pass

Hambleton Drove Road

Old marker stone

Coffee on the Drove Road

Refreshed, we set off again and soon reached the remains of Steeple Cross. TSB tells us that Steeple Cross was referred to as Stepingecross in documents dated 1290 and was probably derived from the old English 'steapinga' - 'dweller on the slope', so making 'crossroads of the hill-dwellers'.  All round this area are Bronze Age earthworks. 

Bronze Age earthworks

The remains of Steeple Cross

Throught the gate and turn right, just after the cross

We turned right through a forestry gate at Steeple Cross and followed the track right where it splits in two, towards Gallow Hill. We were keeping an eye open for Friars Cross which is usually hard to spot, hidden in bracken and undergrowth. Suddenly we emerged onto a large area of devastation caused by forestry working. This work began exactly at Friars Cross, now clearly revealed to the passer-by.  

Keep to the track alongside the wall on the right

Follow it for a mile or so

New area of felling
... reveals Friars Cross

Now easy to find!

This is an ancient track and Friars Cross is believed to mark an old road leading from the escarpment towards Rievaulx and Helsmley.

We reached and descended Atlay Bank which was once thick with rhododendrons but a couple of years ago they were cut back very hard and are just staring to recover.  Bikes use the track here and have made it very muddy in places.

Walk through the tree felling

Bear right from the main track

... to reach the gate

Starting the descent of Pen Hill

Keep to the wall path

Sign down but we bear right again

Staring to descent Atlay Bank

Rhododendrons have been cut back hard

Rhododendron tunnel a few years ago

After Atlay Bank we entered fields to descend to the road at Kepwick.  In one of the fields we saw an old stone shed with water pipes inside it.  TSB explains that in 1873 the Warner family erected Kepwick Hall and made extensive improvements to the estate including the construction of two reservoirs on the moors above, one to supply the house with water and the other for the gardens and terraces.  This building is obviously from that period. 

Looking down we see my car is alone in the car park at Kepwick

My telephoto lens spotted this interesting entrace on Atlay Bank. Maybe next time...


Something to do with Kepwick Reservoir?

We joined the road at a gate and walked back to the car park, past the small privately owned chapel which unfortunately is locked to the public but has a very interesting history.

Originally it was a mission room but it was rebuilt as a chapel by the Warner family whose only son was shot down during WWI, whilst serving with the RFC against Baron Richthofen's flying circus.  Interestingly, his late sister was the model for one of James Herriot's characters, Mrs Pumphrey, who owned the spoilt pekingese dog Trickey Woo.  James Herriot lived in nearby Thirlby and no doubt attended Kepwick Hall to treat their animals.

We join the road at Kepwick

Private chapel

Although quite short there is plenty to see on this walk and we were soon discussing its merits over a pint, although the lack of a pub in Kepwick means a short drive to accomplish this. More importantly for me, my injured foot appears to have survived the walk without further damage.

PS  Four days later. My foot has been troublesome since the walk. Perhaps it was just a step too far, too soon!